A man who was driven close to suicide pleaded with Wandsworth councillors to support people in crisis so nobody else would find themselves in the same situation.

John, who only wanted to be known by his first name, went with Wandsworth Food Bank co-founder Sarah Chapman and Labour Councillor Aydin Dikerdem to present a report about social security in the borough to the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, June 28.

He had been left in poverty after getting a zero-hours cleaning contract and having a Jobcentre worker mistakenly stop the Jobseekers Allowance that was supplementing his low wages.

John said: “I couldn’t afford my rent or bills. It left me in destitution.”

He chased Universal Credit and went to the council to ask for some of the Discretionary Social Fund (DSF), but he was told he was ineligible because he was not receiving the correct benefits.

John said: “I was down on my luck, and having suicidal thoughts. I came pretty close to completing that, but something turned me around, and I’m here today because something needs to change.

“I just don’t want this happening to anyone else. No-one should have to go through what I went through. Nobody should have to suffer like that.”

The report, written by Cllr Dikerdem after the foodbank released its own research, recommended widening eligibility criteria for the DSF to include people having trouble with benefits, and to allow financial support for those housed in temporary accommodation outside the borough for travel expenses.

Cllr Dikerdem said: “It was hearing John’s story, and seeing people affected in my own ward every day, and people using foodbanks, that made me put the report together.

“I feel after the local elections that we have a mandate to push progressive policies through.”

The Conservatives forced an amendment, proposed by Councillor Peter Graham, to only include families taking children to school or nursery, or people going to Jobcentre meetings “and the like”, in the travel costs consideration – but to extend this to people living inside the borough as well as outside.

Labour members accused them of “playing political games”, but the amended recommendations were approved.

Cllr Dikerdem said: “I think today was a step in the right direction. I was surprised by some of the hostility in the room, but overall I’m very happy with the result, and I want to thank Wandsworth Food Bank for all the work they do under awful circumstances.”

Council officers will now get to work investigating how to bring about those changes, and will present a report back to the committee in September.

Wandsworth Foodbank’s Ms Chapman said: “It was really brilliant to have an opportunity to speak up at a council meeting.

"It’s been three years of us trying to do something like this.

“We are very, very grateful to Cllr Dikerdem and his colleagues for showing support for local people in crisis.

“We really hope that people can come together to make things right for people in crisis, to stop them from spiralling.

"But the proof is in the pudding. We’ll now wait and see.”